Warning: the following contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame has massive implications for Doctor Strange 2. The first Doctor Strange movie introduced viewers to the Masters of the Mystic Arts, a band of sorcerers sworn to protect the fabric of reality. Stephen Strange became one of their most promising members, his photographic memory allowing him to swiftly grasp the principles of magic - especially when he sought out forbidden knowledge.
For years, Marvel has been openly discussing the possibility of Doctor Strange 2. That finally seems to be becoming a reality, with Robert C. Cargill reportedly returning as screenwriter, and Scott Derrickson set to direct. They're operating in an MCU that's subtly different; back in 2016, Marvel was hesitant about the introduction of magic, unsure how well it would fit with the pseudo-scientific universe they'd built. Those fears proved ill-founded, and since then the MCU has embraced magic wholeheartedly, notably in Thor: Ragnarok where the Asgardians were treated as actual gods at last. Little is known about the plot of Doctor Strange 2, but Cargill and Derrickson have both said they'd love to use the villainous Nightmare, a twisted being from the Land of Dreams.
It remains to be seen whether those hopes are fulfilled. But one thing is certain; Doctor Strange has become a major player in the MCU, standing side-by-side with Earth's Mightiest Heroes in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. And the end of the fourth blockbuster Avengers movie has completely changed his status quo.
The Time Stone Was Doctor Strange's Greatest Weapon
The Masters of the Mystic Arts have always considered themselves the sworn protectors of the Time Stone, which was contained within a talisman known as the Eye of Agamotto. But they didn't just keep the Eye of Agamotto; they actively used it. The Ancient One kept the Book of Cagliostro, which included a guide on how to manipulate the Time Stone's powers (even if it wasn't a particularly helpful book in one respect; the warnings were written after the spells, meaning Doctor Strange risked breaking the time-space continuum when he experimented with the Eye). In her death scene in Doctor Strange, the Ancient One revealed that she had used the Time Stone to peer into the future. "I've spent so many years peering through time," she noted, "looking at this exact moment. But I can't see past it. I've prevented countless terrible futures. And after each one, there's always another. And they all led here, but never further." According to this line of dialogue, the Ancient One used the Time Stone to identify future threats and work out how to defeat them, just as Doctor Strange did in Avengers: Infinity War. Her entire modus operandii revolved around the use of the Time Stone.
This was confirmed in Avengers: Endgame, when the Hulk met the Ancient One years before her death. It was notable that the Ancient One wore the Eye of Agamotto on her chest when she went into battle, suggesting she considered herself skilled enough to use it safely should it prove necessary. The Ancient One initially refused to surrender the Time Stone, insisting that its absence would create a reality that was infinitely more vulnerable to other-dimensional forces. It's possible that she was foreseeing Dormammu's invasion in 2016, when Stephen Strange used the Time Stone to save reality; but that's unlikely, given she couldn't see past her own death, and Strange hadn't hit upon the idea at that point. It's more reasonable to suggest that the Time Stone has frequently been used in the defense of the Earth.
The Time Stone Has Been Destroyed
After Avengers: Endgame, the Masters of the Mystic Arts no longer have the Time Stone. Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet to destroy the Infinity Stones, recognizing that they would serve as a temptation for anyone who came after him to try to undo the snap. He was right; it was literally the Avengers' first plan. Remarkably, the destruction of the Infinity Stones created a wave of energy every bit as potent as the snap itself. The energy expended came close to killing Thanos. But the deed was done.
From an out-of-universe perspective, it's easy to see why Marvel destroyed the Infinity Stones. They've dominated the first 11 years of the MCU, to the extent that Kevin Feige has now dubbed these three phases "The Infinity Saga." Thanos' justification for destroying the Stones has an amusingly meta quality to it; they would indeed serve as a temptation, with future writers and directors always tempted to increase the stakes by reintroducing an Infinity Stone, or worse the full Infinity Gauntlet.
Appropriately enough, the Hulk doesn't tell the Ancient One that the Infinity Stones have been destroyed. He doesn't actually explain to her why the Avengers can't use the Infinity Stones of their own time; presumably, she simply assumes that Thanos still possesses them and that he can't be beaten without another Infinity Gauntlet. She has no idea that the future is unprotected - otherwise, she'd probably have reacted with far greater horror.
The World Is More Vulnerable Than Ever Before
In the MCU's present, then, the Masters of the Mystic Arts have lost the Time Stone, and as a result the Earth is more vulnerable than ever before. Tony Stark once dreamed of creating a suit of armor that encircled the planet, protecting it from harm; in mystic terms, that's exactly what the Masters of the Mystic Arts are, and the Time Stone was at the heart of their defense. When reality was threatened, the Masters of the Mystic Arts would have used the Time Stone to work out how to beat the latest extra-dimensional being; but they no longer have that capability. Now, they're flying blind, with no guaranteed certainty of success. Doctor Strange can never again hatch an "Endgame" plan.
Meanwhile, as seen in Doctor Strange, one of the reasons the Masters were so successful is that they commanded a force unknown to some other planes of existence. When the Dark Dimension invaded, Doctor Strange ultimately forced a stalemate by introducing time. Time is a foreign concept to some of these extra-dimensional beings; they can't understand it, they don't know how to work around it, and as a result, they can be beaten by it. The Time Stone was the ultimate weapon in the Masters' arsenal - and now it is gone. Dormammu may have vowed not to return, but can he be expected to keep his promise now Earth is vulnerable again? And will beings from other dimensions, perhaps including Nightmare, choose to take advantage of the Masters' new weakness? Avengers: Endgame has radically changed the mystical balance of power in the MCU - and not in humanity's favor. As a result, Doctor Strange 2 will explore a very different status quo.
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019